In Response to Your Questions...

Your Questions My Suggestions
Here are our thoughts about today’s lesson …
The goal for teaching Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, or the “big picture,” should be to think about Lincoln’s justification for continuing the Civil War. The central historical questions should be: “How has Lincoln’s position changed from 1860 to 1865? Why did Lincoln’s position on the war change? Was it a personal ideological shift or a more political shift prompted by the war?”
Then what else do your students need or want to know about Lincoln? The evolution of his thinking about slavery? His understanding of the relationship between the individual states and the U.S. Constitution – how would you tell your students to find this information? OR, could you use this as a think aloud and have them watch you verbalize this intellectual journey and find the texts yourself – provide the model for how they would do this work.
The text should be read as a literary text because it is a speech that we feel as teachers should be appreciated for its aesthetic quality. The text should also be read out loud, it would be interesting for students to read it for dramatic effect; the teacher should start by reading the first paragraph.

Worthy tasks associated with the text would be to compare it to Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address (perhaps a modified version since our audience is 9th and 10th grade).  Lincoln’s position clearly has changed, consider what is the most important quote from his First Inaugural: “I have no purpose, directly or indirectly, to interfere with the institution of slavery in the States where it exists. I believe I have no lawful right to do so, and I have no inclination to do so.” In 1865, Lincoln clearly rejects this position, claiming slavery to be the essential component of the war, whereas in 1860 his main goal was to preserve the Union.  Having students sit in pairs, they should compare these two texts in tandem and reflect on Lincoln’s radical departure from his initial position of the war to how he assumed the position of the radical and Great Emancipator.
Consider the contentious partisan times in which students are reading this document today. Do they believe him because he is Lincoln? Do they not believe him but wouldn’t say it because he is Lincoln? If he was a politician making a statement today what would the corollary be and who would reject the statement out of hand? Push them to see Lincoln as the South did, not as history does.

I find Lincoln's evolving beliefs about slavery fascinating and it  might be interesting to compare with politicians in other era whose views on a key issue have evolved over time. Who couldn't hear Lincoln when he said he was going to protect slavery? Have other politicians suffered that same communication gap?
 After discussing Lincoln’s First Inaugural and Frederick Douglass’s speech, we feel that each document should be treated in separate, different lessons. The Douglass speech should be taught first as a lesson about black agency in the midst of war. Questions to consider would be, what is at stake for Douglass? How do his views fit in the larger historical context—in conjunction with abolitionism, William Lloyd Garrison, and antebellum America? Douglass, a slave himself, advocates for immediate abolition of slavery. Chronologically, Lincoln’s First Inaugural Address is delivered 8 years later, and he takes a moderate stance on preserving the Union between slave states and free—even upholding the Fugitive Slave Law. However, after 5 years of bloody Civil War, Lincoln is explicit in his anti-slavery position and places himself on the right side of history by turning the war as a crusade against slavery.
He is explicit in your reading of the speech; is it explicit to students? Because he is a humanitarian or a savvy politician? He turned the war with the Emancipation Proclamation – a military maneuver for sure – how is he still doing this in the 2nd Inaugural?
Scaffolding tools to use in class would be to provide students with a timeline of key events preceding the war – such as passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, Compromise of 1850, etc. – and also those surrounding the Second Inaugural, including the end of the war and Lincoln’s assassination. To help students visualize these addresses, we might also show clips from Spielberg’s “Lincoln.” Finally, modification of text will be necessary for all documents. No more than two pages per document, with key excerpts, is sufficient.  The lessons would be student and teacher centered, with teachers preparing no more than a 10 minute lecture of events surrounding the texts, then students working in partners to grapple with the documents, and coming back together for wrap up and discussion. The addition of adding Lincoln’s First Inaugural would complement Tovani’s “accessible text” theory, as well as build knowledge for students to engage in meaningful discussion. For some students two pages is too much  You could also guide students in an inquiry exercise – what would they ask about the context of the document? You can be prepared to answer their questions. And not knowing an answer provides an opportunity to model finding it - or let them take a few minutes if they have phones or devices at their disposal to try to find it. Allowing the students to direct the contextual component gives you insight into their preconceptions and the scope of their background knowledge.

When students grapple with the documents, what will that look like? You are grappling with the document by writing this reflection. What will guide or direct their process?
Our group has several questions. Firstly, how does Lincoln’s speech attempt to reconcile the differences between the North and South with the end of the war in sight?
Is this a content question for me or is this a question you want to ask the students to consider? Do you want to tell them he is doing this or can you phrase a question that leads them to discover this?
Secondly, to what extent is background knowledge of the Bible necessary to understanding this text? Good question. Essential, probably not, but it certainly facilitates a level of sophistication students can reach with this document. Why not ask Bible scholars in your class to self-identify and let them lead this portion of the discussion. I usually have at least one, if not several students who are versed in the teachings of the Old Testament.
Thirdly, how would you be able to scaffold this text in a lesson? Where would this text be used in a unit on the Civil War?
Assuming usage in a U.S. History class, this is going to depend on whether it is a chronologically or thematically organized course.
Fourthly, how did Lincoln’s contemporaries respond to this address?
This is a good extension question for students, information they can find independently.
Fifthly, would you juxtapose Frederick Douglass with the Inaugural Address in terms of informational or literary learning?
I would juxtapose them as political and social reformers having a public dialogue about what is possible and what is necessary in the U.S. How would you juxtapose them literarily?
Sixthly, would you consider modifying this text to make it more accessible to students, say 9th or 10th grade? Yes, for them I think the last paragraph is essential.
We would present this as a bridge between the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the Reconstruction.
Why not pose this question to students… if we take Lincoln at face value, what will he want for the nation as it rebuilds from the War? How likely is it that Congress or the states will comply? What incentive do they have to follow Lincoln’s plan or implement his vision? What disincentives does Lincoln have to overcome?
The address expresses a distinct desire for healing and reconciliation—what does this say about the mood of the nation as a whole? Good question – an inquiry exercise might be to find out how in touch Lincoln was with the nation.
To address this question, we would first ask students to look for evidence that showed how Lincoln wanted to treat the South, making sure that they’re underlining words or phrases that they’re unsure of. Start with vocab – then introduce the questions for a second read.
Then students will compare Lincoln’s vision with the reality of Reconstruction by analyzing 3-4 primary sources in a gallery walk. Ultimately, students should conclude that Reconstruction was not realized to the extent that Lincoln envisioned it. Will you flip the classroom and provide a contextual reading or video prior to the gallery walk?
However, once we looked at Douglass’ “4th of July Speech”, we altered our aim, instead asking to what extent Lincoln’s speech address the demands and complaints Douglass put forth in his speech. Students will be broken into groups of four and two pairs will debate each side of the question.
We debated quite a bit regarding the value of modification of texts. On the one hand, it’s important that it’s accessible to all students—as Tovani said,  it really doesn’t do students any good to be reading difficult texts if they aren’t able to comprehend it.
Accessibility is true for secondary reading, too – not just primary sources. I provide contextual readings (2-5 pages) based on the lexile reading level of the students in the class. Sometimes I provide as many as three different readings on the same topic if the range of students in the class necessitates it.
We discussed goals and strategies for teaching Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address.  Our basic strategy would be to assess prior knowledge and fill in knowledge gaps if necessary.
How will you assess prior knowledge? I always assume gaps. No matter how much a student knows, they can ask questions. The more they know, the more complex the questions can be. 
We identified it as a "very complex" text overall (according to common core standards) and decided it would be beneficial to do an initial reading as a class, with the teacher modeling close reading strategies, and students taking a more active role as we progressed through the reading.  We anticipate students needing help with the penultimate paragraph, and would help explain the biblical allusions to aid their interpretation.  We also would want to compare the address with other texts, possibly more modern inaugural addresses, some of Lincoln's other speeches, or a speech from a Confederate source. You could also ask why Presidents since Lincoln – including President Obama when writing his first inaugural – have studied his address. Whether or not students compare this address with another inaugural would depend on how much time you have and how relevant that is to the context in which you are studying this text.
We would want students to be able to identify the purpose(s) of Lincoln's speech, and hold a discussion about how he considered his audience and the state of his presidency and the state of the war. And whom he considered to be his audience; I'm not sure what you mean by the state of his presidency unless you are asking them whether the fact that he was so close to the end of his second term had an impact on what he was willing and able to say. What does his speech tell us about his anticipation of Reconstruction?

In terms of situating this piece in a unit, we thought it could fit in a unit about civil conflicts and their aftermaths, or perhaps strictly chronologically.  It would also be interesting to see how students might consider the viewpoints of Lincoln and Frederick Douglass (based on his "Meaning of the Fourth of July for the Negro"), particularly in conversation with each other.

  • Did you use Lincoln's Second Inaugural (and/or the Douglass piece) in a thematic unit or chronological?
  • What other texts might you include in a text set with these pieces?
  • What is your opinion on abridging the Douglass piece?
  • How do you shore up prior knowledge in an engaging way?
The only time I have used it chronologically was in AP US. All other US I have taught in the last ten years has been thematic and about half of those courses have been paired or fully integrated with English.

I think it is interesting and important for students to understand the defense of slavery - John. C. Calhoun is good for that. Also, pairing with a pro-slavery visual text is powerful. Other abolitionists are important - like Garrison. What I find really fascinating is asking students to wrestle with Lincoln's evolving beliefs about slavery.

As I said in my response to Duane,, I provide contextual readings (2-5 pages) based on the lexile reading level of the students in the class. Sometimes I provide as many as three different readings on the same topic if the range of students in the class necessitates it. I also provide contextual videos from Crash Course or Keith Hughes which are readily available on YouTube. Generally, I provide an overview of a new topic and then have students generate questions which shows me what they care about, what they misunderstand, and what they already command.

I'm all for abridging. I started abridging - some may say gratuitously - a couple of years ago and I have found it very liberating. Spending a full class period (48 minutes for me) one two key paragraphs - reading them, listening to actors read them, pairing those paragraphs with images of the event or time period, responding to the text from various contemporary perspectives - leaves students with a much more profound impression of the importance of the document, the author, the event than rushing through the whole thing. I explain it like having a huge dessert menu and when you finally order you get a small portion, so savor every bite - enhance it with a little coffee, trade small bites for tastes of other people's desserts, you get the idea.